We were delighted to have a special symposium dedicated to Equally Well at this year’s Conference for General Practice held at the end of July. This shows the relevance and interest there is in these issues from the general practice community. The session was attended by about 40 people. Caro Swanson service user lead for Te Pou, chaired the session. Dr Ruth Cunningham from the University of Otago talked about her new research and cancer survival in the context of mental illness. Ellen Fisher and Lynley Byrne [from Hauora Tairāwhiti and Compass PHO in Wellington respectively] provided examples of action happening in primary care that were well received and inspiring. 

Chief executive of Compass Health Martin Hefford attended the symposium and said, "an important message for general practice regarding the very poor physical health outcomes within the mental health /addictions population was delivered by a panel of experts under the Equally Well banner."

Ruth Cunningham started the symposium with the sobering evidence from her research on cancer survival rates. Caro was asked afterwards by one of the attendees how it felt for her as a consumer to hear those bleak facts.

“It is very tough to hear, but Equally Well’s collaborative work gives hope of a better future,” Caro responded.

Following this, Jo van Leeuwen from Te Pou highlighted the depth and breadth of the Equally Well collaborative and encouraged them to get involved. Jo had this to say about the Equally Well session at the Royal NZ College of GPs conference.

"I thought the event planners got it right to have our session follow the key note session 'A life worth living: Primary care in medicine's next era' by Prof Dee Mangin...it was pleasing to pick up a strong sense from GPs that as generalists they have a desire around a return back to holistic and patient-centred care in the new era proposed by Dee, rather than the high tech and data gathering activity that dominates the present era in medicine.

"It was heartening to see a number of other sessions at the conference focused on mental health matters, and the opportunities for innovative approaches within primary care that really works in partnership with people. The work by the Nirvana Health Group (formerly East Tamaki Health Centre) was of particular interest. Leona Didsbury spoke about their work in the Kia Kaha: Manage Together Better programme, which attempts to address mental health need through self-management approach for people with long-term conditions. Except it’s not self-management as I thought – this is an integrated approach that enables people to learn how to manage their wellness through peer support and CBT-based talking therapy within a wheel of support that surrounds the person and their family whanau. People are seen at home and high engagement by the whole whanau was an outcome." 

Equally Well needs to build on the momentum generated from this symposium at future primary care forums and events and we will work with partners in the collaborative to do this. 

To set this symposium up, we submitted a group of abstracts all under the Equally Well banner. Each abstract was reviewed and accepted on its own merit, but then brought together for a dedicated session. So if you would like to present on the Equally Well work you’re involved in and you see a conference opportunity, do get in touch with Helen at helen.lockett@wisegroup.co.nz. It was definitely more effective, for this forum, to have a group of speakers.

You can still view the full programme for the Conference for General Practice.